EscapementThis is the key term biologists use in fish conservation. It relates to the number – expressed in a percentage – of fish that make it through all they have to deal with to spawn and produce more fish. They “escape” things like being eaten by another predator fish, natural mortality, and of course, our hooks and lures.
Optimum YieldAs defined by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), optimum Yield (OY) is defined as “the amount of harvest that could be taken while maintaining the spawning stock biomass per recruit level at or above 30% of the level that would result if fishing mortality was zero.” In this case the 30% is for the red drum fishery.
Escapement rate targets can and will vary by species. The target rates are set based on harvest results, sampling, and surveys. In species that have a heavy harvest rate, the escapement rate target may be raised in order to insure more spawning fish for the next year. That raise in escapement rate necessarily means – among other things – a decrease in bag limits, size limits, or both f or a given species.
Bag and Size LimitsBiologists tell us that they can achieve their desired escapement rate in more than one way. They can allow us to take more but smaller fish or allow us to take fewer but larger fish. They really don’t care which option as long as the rate is accomplished. So, they hold forums and meetings around the state to hear what the anglers want to take – more small fish or bigger but fewer fish. They do what the public wants.
The DilemmaThe problem that border fishermen see is where the two border states have chosen opposite options in their bag and size limits. It is hard to conceive how one state allows, as an example, a 15 fish bag limit and 13 inch size limit on seatrout when right across a river the bag limit is 5 fish and the size limit is fifteen inches. But, the answer is in how the state’s anglers “voted” at the various forums.
Bag and size limits are different for the same species of fish in literally every state. That means if you fish a border are between say North Carolina and Virginia, or between Mississippi and Louisiana, you need to be aware of the differences.